The most important component of a Personal Learning Network is the quality of the educators one follows. “Who is it that I should follow?” is a question that I am often asked by educators. It is the focus of educators every Friday on Twitter as the #FF hashtags fly. The “#FF” stands for “Follow Friday”. Each tweet often carries a list of educators who have shown value as an education tweeter to someone. To often these are groups of tweeters without an explanation as to who these people are, or what they specifically tweet about in education. People are asked to blindly accept another educator’s recommendation to follow someone. I would prefer individual recommendations to explain why that person should be followed. What is important to keep in mind however is that one can unfollow as easily as one follows anyone. No announcement of unfollowing is ever made.
I recently wrote a post about how unconnected we educators really are: Twitterati: Progressive EDU leaders or outliers? I chose Twitter as the focus for connectedness since I have come to believe that Twitter is a backbone to many of the leading thought leaders in the connected world of educators. Apparently that view is not shared by a majority of educators. A leading National Educators organization used that post as a springboard to poll its members on the subject. They generously shared the results with me. The majority (55%) felt Twitter was not important to create professional learning. Specifically in regard to Twitter: 29% Not at all important, 26% Not very important, 21% Neutral, 12% somewhat important, 12% Very important. I guess I was hoping that people saw its value, but could not find the time to use it. Based on this unscientific poll, educators fail to see the value.
About five years ago I proposed an idea to gift administrators with a working Twitter account loaded with connected educators, so that they could see the value first hand without having to use time in creating an account as an excuse. That may have been a bit pushy, but I am a New Yorker born & bred. The idea raised a few hackles. Today, Twitter has enabled tweeters to create lists of their followers. Many create these lists to share with others, or just to organize their accounts. I have gone through the 2,400 people who I follow to create a list of the most valued follows I have. Since no one can pay full attention to 2,400 follows with any consistency, I concentrate on my stalwarts, the people I count on for the red meat in education. I have about 100 of them. These are my personal thought leaders in my Professional Learning network. They offer ideas, question me, praise me, and share endlessly.
If one understands Twitter, one understands that the quality of the PLN is directly tied to the quality, knowledge, understanding and sharing of the individuals followed. Following the right educators will be the difference between expanding and progressing as an educator, or seeing Twitter as a waste of time, therefore the follow choices are a key to success.
Twitter is a simple concept. If you follow ten people you will only get content from those ten. If they are limited in scope of your follows then your scope will be limited as well. Following a larger more diverse group gets you more opinions and diverse ideas. If I were to provide a new tweeter with my Stalwart list of educators that I count on for my education inspiration and clarity, that tweeter would see education as I do, and take from it whatever it is he or she needs. By following each individual on that list their Twitterstream would overflow with education content 24/7. They in turn will be exposed to more recommendations that might more align with their needs. In the spirit of connecting more educators, and witnessing to the world about the importance of being connected to educators for caring and sharing, improving and moving, I offer this list: My Twitter Stalwarts. Follow each of them and drop off who you will, and you will be more connected to education thought leaders. Similar lists can be found on the profiles of Tweeters from the Twitter app. When you find someone who offers tweets that you value, find out whom it is that they follow. Please share your lists with others as well. Please, if you do an #FF tweet offer some credentials for your recommendation. The only way for connectedness to benefit educators is if we are connected. The way for connectedness to work well is to be connected to people who have the best to offer and are committed to offering it.